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Study linking infidelity and divorce to Twitter use proves false

By Amanda Taylor | Posted - Apr. 9, 2014 at 4:07 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — A new study might have you second guessing your decision to live-tweet your next date.

Russell Clayton, a doctoral student in the University of Missouri School of Journalism, found that those who are active on Twitter are more likely to experience Twitter-related conflict with their romantic partners. Such conflict can lead to emotional and physical cheating, breakup and divorce, according to the research.

Clayton surveyed 581 Twitter users of all ages, asking questions about the frequency of their Twitter use and how they use it. Tweeting, reading tweets and using the direct message feature were all included. He asked if participants had current or former problems with romantic partners as a result of Twitter use.

However, Amanda Hess at Slate dug a little deeper, revealing the group surveyed was hardly representative of the population. Only those who were on Twitter in the first place participated, meaning there was no control group to test Clayton's theory.

"We don't know if Twitter increases incidents of emotional or physical cheating," Hess wrote. "All we know is that Twitter increases the likelihood of emotional or physical cheating occurring via Twitter."

We don't know if Twitter increases incidents of emotional or physical cheating. All we know is that Twitter increases the likelihood of emotional or physical cheating occurring via Twitter.

–Amanda Hess

She points out that Twitter does not directly result in relationship problems — but it is likely the more someone uses a social platform, the more likely they are to "mess it up."

For example, Clayton asked “How often do you have an argument with your current or former partner because of too much Twitter use?”

“Although a number of variables can contribute to relationship infidelity and separation, social networking site usage, such as Twitter and Facebook use, can be damaging to relationships,” Clayton told MU News. “Therefore, users should cut back to moderate, healthy levels of Twitter use if they are experiencing Twitter or Facebook-related conflict. Some couples share joint social networking site accounts to reduce relationship conflict, and there are some social networking site apps, such as the 2Life app, that facilitates interpersonal communication between partners.”

Clayton’s previous research was similar, studying Facebook use and Facebook-related relationship conflict. His research concluded that Facebook conflict was more prevalent in relationships of 36 months or less. With Twitter, the negative relationship outcomes occurred no matter the length of the relationship.

“I found it interesting that active Twitter users experienced Twitter-related conflict and negative relationship outcomes regardless of length of romantic relationship,” Clayton said in the MU News. “Couples who reported being in relatively new relationships experienced the same amount of conflict as those in longer relationships.”

A recent Pew study indicated that 74 percent of adult Internet users who report that the Internet had an impact on their marriage or partnership say the impact was positive.

Clayton's study, “The Third Wheel: The Impact of Twitter Use on Relationship Infidelity and Divorce,” was published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

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